A survey by GP’s sister website Medeconomics.co.uk found that 53% of locums said demand for their services had increased in that period, while a further 38% said it had stayed the same. Just 9% said demand had dipped.
Demand for locum GPs rose despite the fact that 63% said they were aware of practices in their area actively trying to cut costs by using locums less.
One in five locum GPs (21%) responding to the survey said they had increased their fees in the past 12 months, with a further 73% reporting their fees were unchanged.
The findings suggest the GP workforce crisis has left practices desperate to make economies with little choice but to continue using locums.
A GP magazine investigation earlier this year found that a third of practices had at least one GP vacancy, and one in six of these had been unable to fill a post for more than a year (GP, 21 July 2014).
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the survey ‘suggests that even though practices have seen their resources cut they are continuing to put patients first and taking on locums to help to meet growing patient demand for appointments’.
He added: ‘It's also a reflection of the growing problems with recruitment and retention as practices struggle to replace GPs who have left and therefore they need to use more locums to fill the gap.’
More than 670 locum GPs responded to the poll, with some reporting concerns over pension payments and expectations placed on them.
Locum pay concerns
One locum wrote: ‘Although I am booked for a half-day surgery and paid an hourly rate, this never takes into account the full extent of the work involved so I invariably run over and am not paid for the extra time.
‘This is also the experience of other locums I meet. There is a general anxiety among locums that if they question this they will not get more work. This is also the reason why many locums have not put up their rates.’
Another locum said: ‘The introduction of practices having to pay the pension contribution directly has significantly impacted on perception of locum costs.’